Panax quinquefolius (American Ginseng)

Well known for the ginsenosides found in large quantities in the human-looking root system, American (and Asian) Ginseng have been used for hundreds of years to treat a wide variety of illnesses. However, they are very expensive and sbsequently endangered due to overhavesting (often illegaly).

Panax quinquefolius (American Ginseng)
Deciduous: yes
Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Height: up to 37 centimeters (15 inches) tall at maturity
Diameter: less than 40 centimeters (16 inches) across when fully grown
Growth Rate: slow
Age: The root system typically does no contain enough ginsenosides (the believed primary ailment-fighting compound) until about 6 to 8 years old. Wrinkles formed at the “neck” of the root system can be used to determine age. Berry/fruit/flower production rarely occurs before 10 years of age. Some plants have been recorded to survive up to 60 years old.
Root System: light tan colored, gnarled, appears vaguely human-shaped when containing the maximum amount of ginsenosides
Family: Araliaceae

Tolerates: dense/heavy shade
Problems (major): These are endangered due to illegal overharesting and poaching.
Problems (minor): American ginseng, when consumed, may cause a variety of detromental side effects.
Poisonous: Various side effects occur from ingesting American Ginseng.

Soil requirements: prefer moist, acid, loamy/medium, well-drained soils
Air requirements: dislikes pollution of any sort
Watering requirement: water frequently enough to keep the soil moist
Sun requirement: grows naturally in part-shade or full shade

Leaf shape: The leaflets appear in sets of 5 (with the 2 smaller leaflets closer to th primary stem). Leaves frequntly occur in pairs of 4 when mature, although some may grow more than 4 sets. Initially, P. quinquefolium has one leaf with 3 leaflets. The leaflets are oblong to ovate with serrate/toothed margins.
Leaf size: 6-15 centimeters (2-6 inches) long
Flower structure: umbrella-shaped, yellow-green or greenish-white, occur in one umbel per stem (per plant)
Flowering frequency: Flowers usually occur in May. Pollination produces red berries (2 centimetes (1 inch) in diameter) in August and September. The seeds, however, require almost 2 years (a cold, dormancy period followed by warmer weather, then another cold time period before finally ripening in the second spring) to germinate.
Bulb/tuber: rhizome
Monocot/Dicot: dicot
Annual/Biennial/Perennial: perennial

Notable characteristics:
Aside from the abundant medicinal uses, America Ginseng has a singular, purple-colored, skinny stem. The leaflets occur in pairs of five (three larger leaflets when immediately germinated), with two smaller leaflets facing the center.

Foremost, do NOT consume ginseng (or anything else potentially harmful) withou first consulting at least one licensed, professional medical doctor or some equivalent. Ginseng (both P. quinquefolius, American, and P. ginseng, Asian) roots have been used to treat a wide variety of illnesses, ranging from headaches to stomach pains. Tests on lab rats have shown that he roots boosted animal immune systems. The root and berries likely lower blood sugar levels, making it a potential help for peopke with type 2 diabetes. Consuming the root has also shown to suppress tumor growth, making it potenially useful for preventing cancerous tumors.

Sources used:

An illustration of the entire P. quinquefolius plant (uploaded 18 March 2008 by Flickr user  Magnus Manske)

A mature plant with mature fruits, belongs toU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service DIVISION OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS (image taken by Pittillo, Dan J. on 18 April 2008)

A mature collected American ginseng root from Marathon Ginseng Gardens (uploaded 19 October 2011 by Wikipedia user “Drginseng”)

I do not own the rights of these images; all credit goes to its original creator(s).



1 Comment

Filed under Plant Analysis

One response to “Panax quinquefolius (American Ginseng)

  1. Mary

    We note that your website currently links to that of the Waterwise Plant Selector. We wish to advise that this will transitioning to the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH) at:


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